Sunday, 23 April 2017
Today we woke up at the impossibly early hour of 05:30, in order to drive to Cape Farewell to see the sun rise and then drive a little further west, to the northernmost point of South Island, New Zealand: Wharariki Beach.
I’ve seen plenty sunrises in passing but I’ve never gone to the length of patiently watching, from being in almost complete darkness, with just the moon and the stars for light to their complete disappearance following the rising sun. It’s a bit like watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, only infinitely more captivating. Unless of course you have a bearskin hat fetish. Each to their own.
It takes about 30 to 45 minutes for the sky to transition from night to day. I tried to do a time lapse video which caught birds going to and fro at super speed but I couldn’t hold still for 30+ minutes so I gave up. We sit for about an hour and at regular intervals I pass eyebrow raised looks at Frodo, like I’m a child asking a parent on a long drive “how many more minutes, dad?” We haven’t had breakfast yet.
Cape Farewell café (closed at this hour) has a quaint little hill top with picnic benches overlooking the cape, beyond which you can see a vista you’re not likely to forget soon. The time it takes for the sun to rise makes me think of the time it takes for me to properly wake up on a morning. Sitting here, still half asleep on a ‘wet-from-morning-dew’ picnic bench, I feel so much more a part of the every day components of creation. We’re waking up with the sun, beginning our day like the sun. Makes me feel like I’m in a Paul Coelho novel, though another Author’s quote comes to mind:
“It is He who breaks dawn (by splitting the dark); and He has made the night a calmness, and the sun and the moon a count (for time); this is the command set by the Almighty, the All-Knowing” – Qur’an 6:96.
After the sun is sufficiently exposed we get back in the car and drive on to the Wharariki beach car park. From the car park, it’s supposedly a 20 minute walk through farmland to the beach and we are hoping to glimpse a few moments of another change in landscape, between high and low tide and also to see the glorious archway islands.
The farmland walk from the car park to the beach takes us about half an hour. It’s too picturesque to sprint through without appreciating the diversity in landscape. I’m glad we didn’t bother paying an exorbitant amount for a set tour of Hobbiton. Much of New Zealand’s landscape resembles Hobbiton, you really don’t need to pay so much for a “tour” of what is otherwise widespread and free to access across much of New Zealand!
When you google famous beaches in New Zealand, Wharariki is not one that even crops up in the top ten, so it is not one that arrives on my itinerary through any search engine result. Difficult to comprehend why that is when it is so strikingly beautiful but I’d imagine one of the main reasons is because it’s a beach where swimming is rightfully not permitted.
The tide is strong, waves are high and the coastline is home to large rocks, sometimes visible but often imperceptible, depending on whether you are there at low or high tide. The invisible dangers lurking beneath the surface at high tide and waves that can reach 3 metres in height, make this beach infamous and one that must be respected by glory seeking swimmers or sleepy beach bums in pursuit of a golden tan. In a relatively short amount of time, the entire landscape of the beach can change and so, if you are out swimming in the rough waves, unless you are Michael Phelps on performance enhancing substances, an extra terrestrial mutant ninja swimmer or a local fish adept to the choppy seas, you’re best off respecting the natural landscape from a safe distance rather than risk dipping your toes in what you think are shallow waters but are actually hidden and treacherous depths. There’s a metaphor for life in the rumbling waves there somewhere!
So why am I here? There is a little backstory for why this beach is purposefully and rather uniquely on my personal agenda.
I wanted a running shot on this beach because about two years ago, I randomly selected a picture from the library of my computer and chose it as my desktop wallpaper, without knowing where the photo was captured nor having any dreams or plans to visit New Zealand. I just remember thinking when I picked that photo as my wallpaper that wow, that spot is breath-taking. 18 months after casually selecting a photo showing the silhouette of a woman running on a beach, I somehow realised an untold dream of running on that exact beach myself.
The universe conspires, you just have to aspire. Conceive that thought and silently wish for it in the deepest corner of your heart and somehow it’s heard. Even that little thought you had, that you never dreamt possible, it can manifest itself in the curious and most impossible of ways. You can plan but life already has its plan and sometimes, the things you don’t even plan but just think of for even a split second, become a reality.
I never felt more awake to the fact that I was walking a path already written for me, than I did in those moments I spent on that beach I never thought I would or even planned to set foot on. The greatest writer already wrote your story and the magical moments are there in the every day blessings if only our soul is awake to them.
As I reflect on the time spent at Wharariki Beach, I realise more deeply the power of filling your mind with positive thoughts and being grateful to be the protagonist in your own story no matter what the weather and wave height, because sometimes when you brave those rough conditions with respect for the depths they contain, sometimes, just sometimes life will throw you a star from the sky. A rising star in the form of a new day. Just a little thought on a stage much grander than our comprehension: a manifestation of positive thoughts can lead to magical moments from the hidden corners, secret longings and silent whispers of your heart.
“I am for ever walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam.
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
– Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam
Reluctantly we leave the beach without seeing a complete change in tide. We have a long drive ahead of us today and need to reach Fox Glacier by evening. That’s about 8 to 9 hours drive away.
Returning to the car park, we are bid adieu by a Muslim peacock and his four wives:
Thank you, Wharariki Beach – you were everything I hoped for and more!